Wow, this was very moving.
Last Sunday, Bruce Springsteen won a special Tony award for his one-man show Springsteen on Broadway. At the awards show, he performed a version of his old song My Hometown, with added reminiscing about the Catholic faith of his childhood (you can watch the video below).
“We lived spitting distance from the Catholic church,” Springsteen began in the powerful number, “the priest’s rectory, the nun’s convent, the St. Rose of Lima grammar school. All of it just a football’s toss away, across the field of wild grass.
“I literally grew up surrounded by God. Surrounded by God and all my relatives. We had cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, great-grandmas, great-grandpas – all of us, were jammed into five little houses on two adjoining streets.
“And when the church bells rang, the whole clan would hustle up the street to stand witness to every wedding and every funeral that arrived like a state occasion in our neighborhood. We also had front row seats to watch the townsmen in their Sunday suits carry out an endless array of dark wooden boxes to be slipped into the rear of the Freedman’s Funeral Home’s long black Cadillac for the short ride to St. Rose cemetery hill on the edge of town.
“And there all our Catholic neighbors, all the Zirillis, all the McNicholases, and all the Springsteens who came before, they patiently waited for us.”
Springsteen is no longer a practicing Catholic, but he also hasn’t entirely rejected it either. He has said that he has come “to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic you’re always a Catholic.” Further, he has said he doesn’t “participate in my religion but I know somewhere… deep inside… I’m still on the team.”
During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2016, he spoke Latin to Colbert, described how he was “the worst altar boy on planet earth,” and explained the Catholic influence on his music.
“At the end of the day, a lot of the language [of the Church] found its way into my music,” Springsteen said. “I always say: in my music, the verses are the blues, and the chorus is the Gospel, if you look at the way my songs are built. […] The language, the ideas, a lot of it came out of Catholic education.”